Like the potato to Idaho or the orange to Florida, the chile is so important to New Mexico, that the state declared “Red or green?” it’s official question. To answer that question for yourself—and for a weekend getaway—hop a 65-minute flight or a cruise 450 miles to Albuquerque. There, you won't find “imposter” chiles from Mexico, California, or Peru, but authentic New Mexican chiles for an eye-watering, sinus-clearing, Scoville-scale climbing experience.
WHERE TO EAT
1. Zacatecas Tacos + Tequila (a 2013 James Beard best new restaurant semifinalist) brings the heat with mazatlan shrimp tacos (red chiles with seared shrimp, pickled Serrano cabbage, and a cucumber-tomatillo salsa).
2. Rebel Donut offers three morning pastries with chile: The red chile chocolate bacon bar (a southwest twist on an old-fashioned maple bar with a little bacon and, of course, red chile sprinkled on top), green chile apple fritter, and the Azteca (an extra hot doughnut).
3. Spice up your morning with a bag of green chile granola from the Trading Post at the Hyatt Tamaya Resort & Spa's shop (bits of green chile join the usual rolled oats, brown sugar, and toasted nuts).
4. Check out the green chile cheeseburgers (GCCB) trail, a high-calorie road trip with more than 8,000 stops. One of those stops is the Owl Cafe, a '50s throwback diner with that has served GCCBs since it opened in 1986 (patties topped with green chile sauce, cheese, mayo, lettuce, onion, pickles, and tomato).
5. Relax on the shaded patio of the St. Clair Winery with a glass of Hatch Green Chile wine (achile-infused white wine).
6. Sadie’s of New Mexico goes through 60,000 pounds of chiles a year. Order the enchiladas (the sauce blends three different types of green chiles).
Ordering tip: If you can’t decide between red or green, order it Christmas style—equal parts of both.
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock